Tuesday, October 27, 2009

La Clef du Temps by Confrerie Horlogere

For the first time ever, a watch allows the user to actually control the speed of time. La Clef du Temps from Confrerie Horlogere – an offshoot of well-known tourbillon specialists BNB concepts – does not betray its true powers at first glance but its presence in the press tells us that the Swiss think time is on their side once more.

A watch such as this – where the crown at 9 o’clock allows the user to modulate the speed of each passing hour – would not have been out of place at BaselWorld in 2008 but today, well, it is quite portentous.

The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry recently revealed that celebrations of the return of the luxury mechanical watch are still premature but the industry is certainly moving to reestablish its hold on collectors’ psyches. La Clef du Temps may be a technical triumph (whose horological value would be sneered at by Jeremy Clarkson) but more importantly, it returns to luxury timekeeping the idea that time itself is the greatest luxury.

Being limited to 24 pieces, one for each of the world’s time zones, means that La Clef du Temps also stands a chance of being truly coveted. It’s all up to the collectors who, thankfully, have more sense than Clarkson (who gleefully torpedoes his own argument right at the end, all for the sake of a dash of irony). With our tongues firmly in check, here are the virtues of this timeless wonder.

Regular hours and minutes are displayed at 2 o’clock; a retrograde seconds hand is positioned at 4 o’clock; the power reserve (80 hours) indicator is at 8 o’clock; and the time-control display completes the circle at 10 o’clock.

The symbols are a little arcane, to be sure, but a close examination of the watch face should reveal the truth. No matter how long you distort time on your wrist, you can always return to standard time by a simple move on the crown at 9 o’clock.

You will of course have noted the vertically mounted toubillon at 6 o’clock and the baroque sculpted nature of the movement. With grade 5 titanium for the case and rubber strands for the strap, this watch is certainly not shy about advertising its pedigree.

As for the price, a prototype of this watch fetched the second highest price at the Only Watch auction recently at USD410,000.

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